Injuries Sustained During Incarceration Among Prisoners

Nikia R. McFadden, Debra R. Kahn, Garth H. Utter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The U.S. prison population has increased substantially in recent years, and violent injury is common among prisoners. We sought to describe injury patterns and other characteristics of prisoners who presented to a trauma center after injury. Because penetrating trauma from an improvised weapon (e.g., shank) is frequent, we also sought to compare characteristics and outcomes of prisoners and non-prisoners who sustained an anterior abdominal stab or shank wound (AASW). Methods: We analyzed injured adult prisoners who presented to a Level 1 trauma center between February, 2011, and April, 2017. We described characteristics of the injured prisoners and their hospitalizations. We compared prisoners who sustained an AASW to a random sample of non-prisoners with the same mechanism of injury using the chi-square test, Student's t-test, and logistic and Poisson regression. Results: Of 14,461 hospitalized injured adults, 299 (2.0%) were injured while incarcerated. 185 (62%) encounters involved interpersonal violence and 36 prisoners (12%) presented with self-inflicted injuries. 98 (33%) had a psychiatric disorder. Among 33 prisoners and 66 non-prisoners who sustained an AASW, prisoners were less likely to have undergone a laparotomy [14/33 (42%) vs 44/66 (67%); RR 0.64 (95% CI 0.41-0.98)] or sustained an injury requiring operative intervention [2/33 (6%) vs 23/66 (35%); RR 0.17 (95% CI 0.04-0.69)]. Conclusions: Many injured prisoners have psychiatric illness, are involved in interpersonal violence, or harm themselves. Among hospitalized patients, abdominal stab/shank wounds sustained in prison are less likely to result in significant injuries or operative intervention than similar wounds in non-prisoners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)386-393
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Injury
  • Penetrating abdominal trauma
  • Prisoners

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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